Whenever I eat at a local hole-in-the-wall Chinese joint (the ones that keep pens in dry rice at the counter and staple the pu pu platter out of your brown bag o’food) I have to get an egg roll. It’s my go-to appetizer.
But I get fancy (and healthier) at those nouveau Chinese restaurants (the ones with big stone horses outside and “bistro” in the name) by ordering lettuce wraps. I’m not even sure why they’re on the menu. I mean, I can kinda connect them to those fresh spring rolls (not fried) at Thai restaurants, but Chinese? No.
There is a Korean dish called Ssam, which involves using lettuce or leafy greens to wrap around meat or a filling. They’re served with a condiment. Sounds familiar? So lettuce wraps likely have some connection to Asian culture, but are they Chinese? I don’t know. And who cares, right? Is anything on the menu at those places really Chinese? I’m sure there’s Chinese inspiration in there somewhere.
Anyway, lettuce wraps are delicious. That’s the point. Crisp, cold iceberg. Crumbly meat. Spicy and sweet sauces.
What’s not to like?
Most of the time the filling is just ground meat. There might be some onion or water chestnuts in there, but in this preparation it’s best as an appetizer.
I wanted to turn the dish into a meal.
My list of ingredients is a bit long, but it’s worth it. Trust me. No sugary, goopy, preservative-laden sauces here.
Here’s what you need:
1 head of iceberg lettuce
1 rotisserie chicken, original or plain
1 package of cremini (mini portobello) mushrooms
1 orange or red bell pepper
2 small yellow cooking onions
1 can whole water chestnuts, drained
1 cup shredded carrots
1 bag frozen shelled edamame
4 cloves of garlic
2 inch knob of ginger, peeled
2 tsp. fish sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 tsp. Sriracha
2 Tbsp. canola oil
Use a wet paper towel to wipe down the caps of the mushrooms. Never run them under water. They’ll absorb the liquid.
In a large non-stick pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Chop up the onion, bell pepper, and carrots.
Chop up the mushrooms.
Chop up the water chestnuts.
Pull the meat off the rotisserie chicken, dark and white. Chop up finely.
Add the edamame, stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Now for the sauce.
Your ginger should be about two inches, give or take. I had a slightly wider piece and that’s ok.
Grab a small mason jar, and grate the ginger and garlic into it. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, Dijon, maple syrup, the juice of the lime, and a pinch of salt. Put the lid on and shake what your momma gave ya.
Add the sauce to the pan, stir. Let cook on medium-low for 3-4 minutes to warm up the sauce.
Serve in a big bowl with a fresh, cold head of iceberg.
You could serve this with Sriracha and soy sauce or those packets of sauce you’ve been hoarding since your last visit to the local Chinese joint. You know you have them. Don’t lie.
I made two sauces. That’s the healthier option, I think.
Whisk together until combined.
1/4 cup mayo
1 Tbsp. Sriracha
Juice of 1/2 of a lime
Whisk together until combined.
This filling is loaded with good stuff. You get a couple of vegetables. The mushrooms are meaty and offer a great supply of minerals. The edamame is protein-packed. The ginger helps with inflammation and digestion.
It’s so colorful, and I love that. This version goes far beyond the somewhat boring batch you get at the restaurant.
This recipe makes a big batch of filling. Any leftovers are great by themselves, just in case you run out of lettuce.
Tip: If you don’t make Asian food frequently the fish sauce may not be worth your money.
It’s made from anchovies. In my opinion, it adds a deep saltiness that you won’t get from salt or soy sauce. It’s like that little something extra.. or umami. You can use an equal amount of Worcestershire sauce in its place.